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Who I Want to Be at Age 35

This September I turn thirty-five. Most age landmarks are arbitrary, but 35 is where I personally separate “young” adults from “adult” adults. So I’m taking this upcoming birthday as an opportunity for personal reflection as I move into the adult-adult, no-more-benefit-of-the-doubt, no-excuse-not-to-have-your-shit-together stage of life.

Here’s who I want to be at age 35:

a truth-teller. I want to pursue truth wherever it leads. If one of my cherished ideas (such as the efficacy of unschooling or self-directed learning) proves itself bankrupt, I’ll walk away from it. If I’m curious about something that’s politically distasteful to my community, I won’t stop looking into it.

a mentor and teacher for young adults. Nothing gives me more pleasure then helping a young adult (typically ages 13-21) to develop their skills and ideas. To see a new part of the world. To discover a new way of enjoying life. To take another step along their path—or make a radical course-correction. This will be my fifteenth year of working with young adults, and I only want more of it.

a skill-builder. I want to keep doing hard things that demand real skills and offer real chances of failure. Speaking Spanish. Partner dancing. Running long trails. Backpacking deep in the mountains. Writing and speaking for public audiences. Running my own business. To paraphrase Nietzsche, I want to to feel the happiness of my power increasing each year.

radiantly healthy. I want to avoid the gradual descent into frailty that seems to start around now. I want to be stronger, more flexible, less prone to injury and sickness than I was at age 34. This connects to who I want to be at age 70, which is “that grandpa still doing crazy backpacking trips” and “that old dude totally cutting up the dance floor.”

making new friends. As I continue meeting new people, I want to turn some of them into long-lasting friendships. Around my age, many people seem to simply stop making new friends; they accumulate acquaintances and “contacts,” but not deeper connections like they did in college or their mid-twenties. I’m going to continue investing energy in making friends without ulterior motives (i.e. romantic or business).

economically beholden to no one. I decided early on that I’d rather be poor and free than rich and trapped, and I bring that intention into my thirty-fifth year. I’m debt-free. I report to myself. I get to choose my clients, choose my obligations, and choose which sh*t sandwiches I eat. I make much less than my demographic peer group, but I feel secure, and I own the time of my life.

willing to reevaluate my identity. As I wrote this post, it was interesting to see one thing that didn’t make the list: travel. Because I’ve built travel into my personal identity, sometimes it’s something I feel like I need to keep doing—otherwise, who am I? But then I stop and think: okay, if I don’t travel, I won’t cease to exist. No one will disown me. And I might even be able to do some really cool stuff that travel prohibits. It’s truth-telling to myself, I suppose. At age 35 I don’t want to be afraid to kill my sacred cows, discard what’s no longer serving me, and reinvent myself.

  • jenniferheller

    This post is such an inspiration. I love how you are thoughtfully planning your personal development. I’m going to steal this for a “Who I want to be at 40” post!

  • Garreth Heidt

    Blake, I love your work. Were you around when I was a kid (mid 1980s) I may have done things differently. It’s certainly going to influence what I want for my own children. However, as an educator of some 25 years, I’m just getting around (the past 3 years or so) to diving deep into self-directed learning. Your book and your blog are crucial to that development. So when I look at who I want to be at 55, let’s say, I want my classroom to be either: A) entirely self-directed or B) no longer in the institution itself.

    If you’re not familiar with the work of Don Wettrick at Nobelsville HS in Indiana, I recommend you take a look at it. But you might first start with his recent entrepreneurial endeavor, http://www.startedupinnovation.com/ Listen to the podcast with Tucker Max, or the one with Naveen Jain. Don’s a teacher, bringing this mindset into his classroom! (I actually asked him to seek you out as well. I think you’d be a great interview for his podcast.)

    Thanks again
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/629d15170f87501ad129126f551a5d434f00d4ac25323dc6b145c9af3129f4e9.jpg

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Garreth! And I’ll definitely check out your friend’s podcast.